December 5th, 2012
Managing Editor - CheerandGears.com
I am running a bit late with today’s Buick Week entry because I spent the day running around the countryside surrounding Atlanta, Georgia putting a few 2013 Buick Encores through the paces. That review will be available for you to tomorrow. In case you missed it, yesterday we went on a First Drive of the 2013 Buick Enclave. On the first day of Buick week I took you on a full review of the 2013 Buick Verano. Today we are going on a first drive of the Buick Verano Turbo.
Day 1 – 2013 Buick Verano Review
Day 2 – 2013 Buick Enclave First Drive
Day 3 – 2013 Buick Verano Turbo First Drive
This ain't Buick first time at the rodeo...
But those are all larger luxury cars and this is a story about a compact. Did you know that Buick offered a fire cracker version of their compact, J-Body based Buick Skyhawk in 1984? The Turbo was offered only in the T-Type trim, the 1984 Skyhawk T-Type came with a 1.8 liter DOHC turbo-charged 4-cylinder putting out 150 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque in a car that weighed in right around 2400lbs. These are excellent power to weight numbers today much less in 1984, when GM’s V8s could not even wheeze out similar horsepower numbers. In 1987, Buick increased the engine’s displacement to a full 2.0 liters, horsepower was up to 165, and torque wrenched in at 175 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. Production of the Skyhawk ended in 1989. Though relatively unknown, these Skyhawk T-types were fun little compacts that could provide a swift kick in the pants when asked to.
But what's 1984 got to do with me?
Buick invited me to drive both the manual and automatic transmission versions of the Verano Turbo through the countryside surrounding Louisville, KY.
Visually, there is very little external difference between the Turbo and non-Turbo versions, you just get a rear spoiler, dual chrome-tip exhaust, and an extra badge on the trunk. Inside the story is much the same, save for a set of metallic sport pedals. My main complaint inside the Verano continues in the turbo editions: the lack of power seat recline for the driver and complete lack of power seat adjustment entirely for the passenger. For a car that can easily crest over the $30k mark, these are noticeable absences.
Buick compacts: Now available in "Faster"
The story of the Verano Turbo is entirely about how it drives. By starting with the already excellent handling of the base Verano and adding the thrust of the turbo charged engine, Buick has created a compact premium sedan that is deceptively quick.
In the manual version, the shifter throws are a bit long, but they are nice and smooth. Once you’re accustomed to the car, relaxed shifting can be a simple two-finger “snick-snick” between gears. Torque comes on strong at low RPM and is maintained up to 5,500 – 6,000 rpm. You never seem to feel out of breath in this car like I had with the non-Turbo version. Turbo lag is minimal and non-car-nerds could be excused for thinking this is a V6 powered car. The clutch is on the light side and won’t wear out your left foot on long drives.
The extra thrust wouldn't be worth much if the Verano couldn't handle it in the corners. Buick firmed up the Verano’s suspension and steering a bit resulting in a car that feels surprisingly well balanced for being front-wheel drive.
On the issue of noise control, Buick actually had to dial back the quiet tuning a little bit because they felt that Verano buyers who opted for the Turbo model would actually want to hear more of the engine while driving. Most of the change comes from exhaust tuning and gives the Verano Turbo a sound that can start the gears turning in a gear head.
Overall the Verano turbo is for the buyer who appreciates the comfort of a premium compact but still want to have the that extra trust to experience an exhilarating run down a country road. Buick is reporting over 50% conquest rate for all Verano models with over 50% of those coming from import brands. Additionally, Buick has seen their average buyer age drop by 7 years over the last 5 years. Buick did not share with me the take rate on Veranos equipped with the 2.0t. but the turbo-boosted 2013 Buick Verano should help Buick turbo-boost those numbers even more in their favor.
Disclaimer: Buick provided transportation to and accommodations in Louisville, KY for this event.